History Dish Mondays: The "Real" Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby is upon us, and that means the start of mint julep season. Juleps are my hands down favorite drink; I’ve even purchased a few live mint plants so I can make them at a moment’s notice. Captain Maryatt, a 19th c British admirer of the American Julep, had this to say on the frosty drink:

“I must descant a little upon the mint julep as it is with the thermometer at 100 one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that ever was invented and may be drunk with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70.”

He also said that American ladies who drink juleps are “irresistible.”

The following recipe is from our old friend, drinksmaster Jerry Thomas. In his own words “This is the genuine method of concocting a Southern mint julep…”  I have used this recipe many times with great success, and highly recommend it for your Derby parties this Saturday.

The Real Georgia Mint Julep.
Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tending Guide, or How to Mix Drinks, 1862

(Use large bar-glass.) 
Take 1 tea-spoonful of white powered sugar. (or superfine)
¾ wine-glass (1.5 ounces) of Cognac brandy.
¾ wine glass (1.5 ounces) of peach brandy.
About 12 sprigs of the tender shoots of mint.

Put the mint in the tumbler, add the sugar, having previously dissolved it in a little water, then the brandy, and lastly, fill up the glass with shaved ice. Stir with a spoon but do not crush the mint.  Whiskey may be substituted for brandy if preferred


I have a few variations on this recipe:  Contrary to Thomas’ recommendation, I muddle the mint, powdered sugar, and water in the bottom of the glass before adding the alcohol.  You could also make a simple syrup instead.  Additionally, I one day dream of making my own peach brandy, but in the meantime I find the best substitution is a peach liquor.

Georgia Mint Julep on Foodista

Pepsi Throwback!

Speaking on new/old products appearing on store shelves, Pepsi is releasing two new soda lines: Pepsi Natural  and Pepsi Throwback.  Their main selling point is that they are made with real cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  According to Reuters.com: “Pepsi Natural, a premium cola made with sugar, natural caramel and kola nut extract, will be sold in glass bottles…The Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback drinks will be sweetened with natural sugar and will feature retro-looking packaging reminiscent of the 1960’s and 70s.” 

My Dad used to rant and rave that Coca-Cola in glass bottles was better than Coke in cans, and fell into a deep depression when they discontinued the glass bottles.  After moving to New York, I brought my dad home a few bottles of Coke from the Mexican deli across the street, and I discovered the difference: imported Coke in bottles is made from real sugar; American soda (or pop, for my friends in the midwest) is made with HFCS.  Besides, People are really excited about that glass bottle.

I recently saw Pepsi Natural on the shelves of my local Duane Reade; I haven’t tried any yet, so if you have, let me know what you think. 

And on the topic of tasty sodas, if you live in New York, The Lexington Avenue Candy Shop is worth a visit.  More of a luncheonette than a candy shop, they make all of their sodas the old-fashioned way, with syrup and soda water.  They also don’t have that whole “we an old fashioned soda shop!!!” attitude.  I had never had a “real” root beer float before, and it was unbelievable.

Update: I’ve since tried Pepsi Natural, and It’s pretty good.  It definately doesn’t taste like Pepsi. I also found this lovely qoute by Andy Warhol about Coke:

What’s great about this country is America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.”